A white metal cross, which usually sits on top of Mount Tzouhalem, has been removed and possibly vandalized, says Mayor of North Cowichan.

On Saturday, Mayor Al Siebring wrote in a Facebook post that he suspects a grinder was used to lop off the cross at the base.

Siebring called the act a “sad piece of vandalism,” but cautioned people not to conflate the removal of the cross with other recent acts of vandalism until the motive is known.

Siebring speculated that the cross removal is related to recent acts of vandalism involving the removal of the Captain James Cook statue in downtown Victoria and the vandalism of a totem pole on the Malahat.

Recent vandalism around the island is being linked to the investigations into mass graves discovered at residential schools around Canada.

“It could be a random act, but I suspect there will be speculation that this is in line with the church burnings, statue destruction, and the attempt to set fire to that totem pole at the Malahat Summit earlier this month,” Siebring wrote.

“In our present cultural context, that’s where our minds go.”

In early July, First Nations chiefs from southern Vancouver Island gathered to sign a joint letter calling for peace and mutual respect whilst denouncing recent acts of vandalism and racism toward their communities.

The letter specifically condemned “the damaging of property including statues and totem poles,” and said that everyone in the region needs to respect each other.

Last week, over 160 undocumented and unmarked graves have been confirmed at the site of a former residential school in the Gulf Islands.

The confirmation of graves at the Kuper Island Industrial School was announced by the Penelakut Tribe last Thursday.

The removal of the cross has yet to be reported to the North Cowichan RCMP and it’s unsure what the intention of its removal was, despite Mayor Siebring’s comments.

Mount Tzouhalem is four kilometers away from Duncan, and is a popular destination for those who want to see or take a picture with the cross which looks out upon the Cowichan Valley.

This isn’t the first time the cross has been removed though.

In 2014, the cross was removed from a sudden and extreme windstorm.

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